Currently lives and works in Hobart, Tasmania

Education & Background

2019-now studio specialising in reduction lino cut printing
2018 Study printmaking (relief printing)
2000-04 Lecturer, UNSW, Sydney
1997-00 Post-Doctoral researcher, Lund University, Sweden
1992-97 PhD Microbiology, UNSW, Sydney
1989-92 BSc (Honours), UTAS, Hobart

Exhibitions & Awards

2023 Henry Jones Art Award, Finalist
2022 Henry Jones Art Award, Finalist
Tidal Art Award, Devonport, Finalist
2021 Henry Jones Art Award Finalist
Royal Hobart Show Drawing and Other Media Section Prize 2 nd :
Rotary Club of Hobart Art Show, Robin Hood Award Winner
Taking Flight Exhibition, Art Society of Tasmania, Hobart
Art Society of Tasmania 137 th Annual Exhibition, People’s Choice Award
Art Society of Tasmania 137 th Annual Exhibition, Highly Commended
Burnie Print Prize exhibition, Finalist
Kingborough Art Prize, Highly Commended
Biennial Water Ways Exhibition, Art Society of Tasmania
Light and Shadow Exhibition, Art Society of Tasmania, Hobart
2020 Art Society of Tasmania 136 th Annual Exhibition, People’s Choice Award
Art Society of Tasmania 136 th Annual Exhibition, Best Use Medium Winner
Megalo Relief Online Exhibition, Megalo Print Studio, ACT Finalist
2019 Reclaimed Spaces Exhibition, Hunter Island Press, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart
Mini-print Exhibition Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart
2018 Editions: an Illustrated Glossary of Printmaking, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart
Colours of Nature, Sally James, Colville Gallery, Castray Esplanade,
Hobart until May 25. Price range $280-$2,300
Andrew Harper
TasWeekend - Visual Arts May 20-21, 2023

Sally James is making quite singular art: she’s using a very complex and detailed technique to create linocuts, which is a well-established form of printmaking, but it’s not a technique we might associate with the sheer level of detail James is using to realise her images. The process of creating the works must be intensely time consuming. That’s not the only technique at play here though: James is very clearly placing her pigments so that they move, creating layers of density that are subtly painterly.
The works are breathtaking in the sense of their imagery – James really manages to capture the ephemeral, light essence of vast spaces of air and the slow rolling of bodies of water. It’s quite entrancing, because the medium presents these visions in a subtly different manner to something like painting or photography, whilst quietly hovering between both and not really being either. This is what I found really engaging about James’ art – it feels quite hybrid and new, but it’s also got an otherworldly element that recalls illustrations found in ancient books.
James’ work also contains a hint of lineage with the traditions of Japanese woodblock prints; there’s something quite mentally cleansing about the sharp, crystalline clarity of these images that makes them evocative in a similar way to those incredibly significant works. There are certainly influences of all kinds visible in James’ work, but what really makes this whole show succeed is the sheer difference of it. James has in some way managed to move past influences and make something that is not so much original as it is dripping with character.
The personality of the artist comes through a lot here – meticulous attention to detail and a willingness to experiment with a very controlled form, to approach it laterally. James has interrogated the process she’s undertaking and really pushed out at the edges of it – the sheer size of some works here along with the level of complexity in the method is breathtaking.
Seeing a number of these works together is quite something, as this makes James’ concerns and investigations become more palpable.
The interest she has in creating juxtapositions between complex renderings of chaotic plant forms, subtly rippling water and cloud formations – that can seem similar but are also subtly different because of the way James manages to understand the weight of water against the lightness of the air.
These complex images have a strong sense of composition, even balance, and are ultimately pleasing not just because they look incredible but because of their underlying aesthetic. Colours of Nature is a remarkable show that really does deserve to be seen. What James is doing is quite fascinating and while it does have its antecedents, it is fair to say this is pretty original. Which is pretty amazing, particularly with the connections this kind of work has to bygone technology in an overwhelmingly digital world.